Strike! Strike! Strike!
September 2, 2019 11:02 AM   Subscribe

As we celebrate the fruits of our labor this Labor Day, let us remember the single most important tactic that gives workers the ability to negotiate with teeth and strength: the strike. Strikes are used by workers all over the world, from Taiwanese flight attendants to Appalachian teachers to Iranian truck drivers, and they are returning because they work.

Can you be fired for organizing a strike? No, as Barstool founder Dave Portnoy recently found out when he repeatedly threatened to fire any Barstool employee who spoke to a labor organizer on Twitter.

Not everyone in the US currently has the right to legally bargain collectively and strike, however. Only 11 states in the USA currently allow state employees to strike for better working conditions. This legal provision makes it much harder for strikers in certain industries, like education.
posted by sciatrix (27 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
 
i have a sneaking suspicion that i am going to run out of favorites today.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:17 AM on September 2, 2019 [8 favorites]


It is known that the one surefire way to get fired from OfficeMax is to mention the phrases "living wage" "collective bargaining" or "workers rights" to a manager - they showed us a training video, and it instructed us to rat on our coworkers if they showed any signs of "pro-union activity"

I had a mental breakdown working for them :D
posted by captain afab at 11:17 AM on September 2, 2019 [21 favorites]


BTW, I'm one of those workers who is unable to legally strike. It's come up several times in graduate student organizational meetings, and it's something that really bugs me about my workplace and my industry.

also thanks to the Whelk for the nudge to post on labor today
posted by sciatrix at 11:20 AM on September 2, 2019 [10 favorites]


if someone else wants a topic idea, MeMail me and I'll help you talk about Helen Keller, kickass labor organizer extraordinaire
posted by sciatrix at 11:27 AM on September 2, 2019 [6 favorites]


The single greatest victory of the American right wing over the last 50 years has been their demonization of unions.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:30 AM on September 2, 2019 [28 favorites]


Skinflint that I am, I have to say I'm pretty relieved that my union got my workplace to back down without having to go on strike this week.

I'm extremely glad that everyone's keeping their current pay and that everyone's actually getting properly written job descriptions, of course.
posted by ambrosen at 11:33 AM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


Everyday should be Labor Day
posted by The Whelk at 11:48 AM on September 2, 2019 [10 favorites]


My mind was poisoned for years by Johnny Hart's BC cartoon where one of the characters utters a poem: Labour Day, schmabor day / What a dumb day / To hire some jerk / Then send him away / To celebrate work / By playing all day.

It took me decades to realize that Labour Day isn't a celebration of work, but a celebration of worker's rights. I dunno if JH was taking the piss, or had brain worms, or what, but that cartoon did not help me orient properly on the power of collective action one little bit.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:07 PM on September 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


I was born on Labor Day.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:14 PM on September 2, 2019 [4 favorites]


So was my father!
posted by sciatrix at 12:15 PM on September 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


iirc, Hart turned into a rightwing crank and his strip became increasingly incoherent.
posted by thelonius at 12:20 PM on September 2, 2019 [8 favorites]


I saw a profile of Sara Nelson recently, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. Video and transcript/story at the link.
posted by gudrun at 12:37 PM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


My mind was poisoned for years by Johnny Hart's BC cartoon where one of the characters utters a poem: Labour Day, schmabor day / What a dumb day / To hire some jerk / Then send him away / To celebrate work / By playing all day.

Oh, please don't get me started on what a awful person John Hart was. His evil shadow still looms large over the Binghamton/Southern Tier area.
posted by Citrus at 12:56 PM on September 2, 2019 [11 favorites]


i have a sneaking suspicion that i am going to run out of favorites today.

But you are a reclusive novelist and if you favorite then you make your presence known...
posted by hippybear at 2:23 PM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


I was born on Labor Day.

You always have the day off on your birthday. So jealous!
posted by otherchaz at 2:57 PM on September 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


> But you are a reclusive novelist and if you favorite then you make your presence known...

look just because i'm a recluse doesn't mean i can't favorite things on the Internet.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 4:16 PM on September 2, 2019 [5 favorites]


By chance, last night we watched the Deep Space 9 episode 'Bar Association', which it turns out involves a successful strike at Quark's bar. Unions even work against Ferengi! Workers of the world Alpha Quadrant unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!
posted by kaibutsu at 4:32 PM on September 2, 2019 [7 favorites]


Meanwhile the state of Alaska goes to war against public sector unions.
posted by Nerd of the North at 4:52 PM on September 2, 2019


You always have the day off on your birthday. So jealous!

Labor Day is a 'Every x Monday holiday' in the US.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 5:31 PM on September 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


The single greatest victory of the American right wing over the last 50 years has been their demonization of unions.

There are not many fundamentally civilising forces in this world, and the right to collective bargaining in the workplace (i.e. effective unions) is definitely one of them.

Which is why one of the first orders of business for plutocrats and tyrants is to attack, weaken, and if possible destroy unions. They know there is power in numbers.

Been happening here in Australia for many years, and very effectively. Unions here are now piss weak compared to 30 years ago.

And there is no end to it. No matter how constrained and impotent unions are, the political right and their masters demand ever more suppression and disempowerment of labour.

Our own newly – and unexpectedly – re-elected reactionary right coalition government (replete with lashings of prosperity theocracy) are already rehearsing the usual bleatings and smears to soften us up for yet another round of union-bashing, and the make-up of the current parliament means they will probably succeed to a substantial degree.

(Which is not to uncritically defend all unions and their actions. They are human institutions, with all the usual human foibles and failings, and must be held to robust standards of governance.)
posted by Pouteria at 6:32 PM on September 2, 2019 [9 favorites]


Oh, and I can't tell you how much I loathe the parasites – and that is the right word – who happily take all the benefits of union efforts, but refuse to contribute to them in any way, and grant themselves the right to sneer at and rubbish unions and the whole notion of collective bargaining, and vote for them to be destroyed.

There is a special place in Hell for those fuckers.
posted by Pouteria at 6:38 PM on September 2, 2019 [8 favorites]


There's a free, 4-class online course on how to organize (or, as I've been subject titling my emails to friends about it, Growing Our Power) led by Jane McAlevey that starts Oct 29:
"Only real, deep organizing is going to ensure that our future world is based not around the corporate 1% but around the needs and desires of ordinary everyday people, across the world. . . . [Jane will teach] how to identify the people in the ranks we need to build majority participation to creative strategies involving hundreds, and thousands of workers in the collective bargaining process, and building electoral power as an essential compliment to shop floor organizing."
They want people to register as a minimum group of 5 people, but I contacted them to ask about my smaller group and they said a smaller group was fine. Also, I mentioned that some people in my group are self-employed, but they didn't seem to think that was a problem. McAlevey's focus is labor and building unions and successful strikes, but I think the skills she teaches are broadly applicable to building movements generally like for elections, climate change, etc. And I think that the silo-ing of these various movements is partly why we, the people, are not as powerful as we could be.

Anybody who's interested but doesn't have a group, MeMail me.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 7:21 PM on September 2, 2019 [13 favorites]


And there is no end to it. No matter how constrained and impotent unions are, the political right and their masters demand ever more suppression and disempowerment of labour.


That's because the right fundamentally disagrees with the entire concept of unions. Remember, their goal is social, political, and economic hierarchy. Unions grant power to the employees, and in their worldview employees simply shouldn't have any power at all. The existence of any union, no matter how constrained, is an expression of a thing that the right believe shouldn't exist and believes is harmful and disruptive of proper social order.

Any power granted to employees is, to the right, an unacceptable and deeply dangerous upsetting of proper social order and will result in chaos, destruction, and quite possibly to the collapse of civilization. They hate unions not because of what they can do, or what power they have or don't have, but simply because their existence says that bosses shouldn't be totally unchallenged in their power.
posted by sotonohito at 3:54 AM on September 3, 2019 [2 favorites]


On a lighthearted note, our family (at my teen daughter's insistence) watched Newsies (2017 Broadway version) Sunday night, just before labor day. Very appropriate!
posted by freecellwizard at 5:53 AM on September 3, 2019 [2 favorites]


Guys, one that's kind of important is coming up September 27, 2019.

https://www.earth-strike.com/

Only a global general strike to save civilization as we know it that few people seem to have caught wind of, no pun intended.
posted by AppleSeed at 11:53 AM on September 3, 2019 [2 favorites]


Cities used to be quite difficult when service providers were frequently going on strike. Now they are difficult in a different way.
posted by Baeria at 9:47 AM on September 5, 2019




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